Sunday, June 17, 2018

Shock! Horror! It must be Dark Mofo!

This year it's about fire and crosses

It’s cold. It gets dark at 4.30 and it looks like rain but David Walsh, father of Mona has done it again, abruptly drawing us out of our comfort zone, both physically and mentally. Last year it was the public butchering of a bull which caused outrage, though no doubt it goes on out of sight in our abattoirs every day. This year it is the emphasis on crosses – the lurid red upside down ones in the city and the burning ones at Dark Park.  Mike Parr, the performance artist who last year occupied the Royal Derwent Mental Hospital, has this year had himself buried underground in Macquarie Street (one of Hobart’s main arteries) for three days. I am pleased to hear that he has a heater and a thermos as a Hobart winter is cold enough without spending it underground.

A blaze of torches greets us at the solar cross

We – that is my daughter and her temporarily extended family and I, braved the elements last night to explore Dark Park.  Fire in various forms warmed our hearts and souls from the giant bonfire to the leaping flames of the solar cross – symbol of the most ancient pagan religion, to the braziers found all around the venue. The good thing about coming out tonight was that the queues were not as long, though from all reports attendances have already exceeded all previous Dark Mofos. We walked the Solar Cross and then headed indoors for the puppet show and a look at this year’s Ogah Ogah. Arachnophobes beware. This year’s Ogah Ogah is a giant cave spider and the puppet show by the Terrapin theatre features a spider too. Real live cave spiders “grow as big as a dinner plate.”  I’d taken seven- year -old Bliss to see the puppet show, but after only a few minutes, she's ready to leave. “I’d rather go back to Mum” she said apprehensively. Dark Mofo is about confronting our fears.

The Ogah Ogah - this year a giant Cave Spider - greets us at the end of the shed. The idea is is to write down your fears and regrets and put them in the Ogah Ogah's egg sacs to be consumed by the flames when Dark Mofo ends

The bars were well attended – something to do with the weather I suspect, and many were enjoying the live music. A freezing rain began to fall as we reluctantly ventured outside again.  It didn’t help that we soon discovered several giant puddles as we stumbled about in the dark. Nevertheless, we eventually we found ourselves mesmerised by United Visual Artists’ “Musical Universalis” - glowing orbs moving rhythmically to a musical score and resulting in a kind of ballet of the planets. If you can't visit the venue, you really ought to click on the site to see this as my small camera didn't do much for it.

Even further away at the far northern end of the park, we arrived at Matthew Schreiber’s “Leviathan,” an enormous mazelike web spun out of laser beams, where we also spent some time. 
As we emerged we could just see the giant cross at the centre of the Sun Cross catching fire and illuminating the sky. This was another source of controversy as burning crosses have long been associated with the evil deeds of the Ku Klux Klan in the USA. However, as with the upside down crosses, their story is much more complex than this. Their use can be dated to at least a millennium earlier and they were also popular among the Scots to call together their clan members to defend themselves against others.

Losing ourselves in Matthew Schreiber's laser maze

As my daughter remarked,” I may not like every exhibit, but you have to admire David Walsh for bringing original and experimental work to Tasmania.” Speaking of confronting ideas, on our way out I notice the Submissive Hair Salon. Mistress Germaine and Master Bartholomew stop their busy schedule of gentle spanking or tying people’s hands to have a little chat. I just know people are going to go on about this too, but really, even the seven year old thought it was hilarious and definitely a very novel way to get your hair done. It comes with a beer, a G and T or a glass of wine too, but it is rather expensive. Hope conservative Hobart lightens up enough to appreciate it.

Fancy a bit of gentle S and M and maybe a a glass of wine with your hair cut? Mistress Germaine and Master Bartholomew are happy to offer all three at their Submissive Hair Salon

There are many more exhibits and shows (see the full program here)– some of them such as Tim Minchin’s, have been booked out months before, but the rain is coming down hard now and at least one of the little girls is getting tired.  As I drag my wet feet towards the exit, my only complaints are how far away the parking is – no shuttle buses this year, and how big the puddles are. I hope those two issues will be dealt with next year, especially as Dark Mofo gets bigger and bigger.

Some of the offerings at the Submissive Hair Salon

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Winter’s Day at Mt. Field

A Winter landscape - Mt. Field

It’s official. It’s winter now, but yesterday was our first fine day in a while. Or at least that’s what the weather bureau promised, so my long suffering walking buddy hauled me off to Mt. Field.  

It was still overcast and gloomy as we made our way up the narrow Lake Dobson Road, but suddenly we were above the mists and in the most beautiful alpine wonderland. Little pillows of snow lay on the moorlands and the mountains beyond carried a delicate dusting of snow. Curiously it’s not at all cold and there’s not a breath of wind.Yes, we may have missed the fagus this year with its glorious autumn display and we’d missed the summer wildflower show, but don’t think there’s nothing to do or see, just because it’s winter. 

Sunlight breaks through the fog, Lake Dobson Road, Mt. Field National Park

Once the showier plants have gone, you notice more subtle things such as the colourful trunks of the Snow Gums, the fresh greens of mountain pepper and conifers, the mosses and lichens and the great diversity of moorland species which cover the spaces between sparse eucalypts and rocks. It’s also the perfect time to see Russell Falls in full flow, though we don’t do that till later. The other good thing about winter, is that there's very little traffic on this road and the few people we do meet are smiling and friendly.

Moorlands and  mountain views - Mt. Mawson 1318m  in the background

There are a lot of interesting walks up here – to mountain tarns and rivers, over peaks and valleys and so on, but most of them are too long for us today because my friend has to leave early. We set a timer and walk the Lake Belcher Trail as long as we dare. The early part of this walk is duck -boarded to the end of the Moorland Mosaic, but with a bit of ice and snow on it, care is in order even here.  After that, we lumber about in snow and mud. It’s a bit disappointing that by the time the timer goes off, we haven’t arrived anywhere in particular, but it’s exhilarating just being out in the fresh air and sunshine.

The rich tapestry of moorland plants on the edge of the treeline

All that remains of the Fagus (Northofagus Cunninghami) but now you notice the other plants

Braving the elements - a tortured Snow Gum

I discover my first Mt.Mawson  pine (Pherosophaera hookeri) though I didn't know what it was until I got home and must admit I was expecting something a bit bigger. We throw a couple of half - hearted snowballs – not too hard, I didn’t want them shoved down my neck; make a couple of stops on the way down and do a quick lap of the new improved Russell Falls Circuit.

There are a few fungi about but the light is already fading

 If you walk up the track a bit now after you cross the little bridge, you can see the full extent of the falls whereas before you could only see two levels. It’s a short easy walk – 25 minutes return and the left side has been levelled and tarmacked to make it suitable for prams and wheelchairs. 
There are a few fungi about too, but it’s already too dark to take photos – perhaps the sun never reached here at all. It certainly feels like it.  It’s "put on the ski gloves" cold and I would kill for a cup of coffee.

Not the best shot but a quick glimpse of Russell Falls - one of the easiest falls to get to but tracks to several other falls start here as well

Not a pine cone but a fungus as big as a cabbage!
We have a pit stop in Westerway, just before the National Park where tiny cottages hug the Tyenna River. One of these is the Possum Shed, a gorgeous little place whose rear deck overlooks the water. On a good day you can see platypi from here, but I don’t linger outside that long. Great coffee, great day. The cakes were pretty good too. 

By the way, if you get the chance watch David Attenborough's "Tasmania." He captures much of the flavour as well as some excellent footage of our native animals. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Biggest Morning Tea

Forgot to show the food, but you can see the band belting out "Amore"in the background

I hate to admit it,  but I‘ve just had another terrific morning tea. I’ll have to stop this, I’m putting on too much weight, but the consolation is that it was for a good cause.

This was part of  Australia's Biggest Morning Tea which is held right around the country on May 24, to raise money for the Cancer Council. The money goes towards research, prevention and support for those who are suffering from cancer, and their families. Since one in two Australians are likely to be diagnosed with cancer before they turn 85, it is not surprising that this is the most popular and successful fundraiser in Australia. Money raised within the state stays here. 

That's Romilla in the centre, thanking the band and those who helped in the kitchen, the donors of prizes and the guests

Ours was hosted by a lovely local lady, Romilla who has been doing it since 2003. So far she has raised $250,000 not counting today. This has become a real community event each year with entertainment and frantic bidding on gift vouchers donated by local businesses and others. There are also trade tables, raffles and a big plant and produce stand -everything but the dancing girls. Besides the feel good factor from doing something faintly noble, it was also jolly good fun.

If there isn’t already a Biggest Morning Tea happening near you, it’s not too late to host your own. Any time throughout May and June is fine. Click here to register or find out how it’s done. 

I’ll have to get walking again soon, but we haven’t had the best of weather. We had devastating winds last Friday and positively biblical rains and floods the week before with school closures, cars being swept down our city streets, power outages and so forth, so today's bit of sunshine has been a most welcome change.

Monday, May 14, 2018

High Tea at Hadley’s

Not so imposing from the street these days, but Hadley's Orient Hotel is once again grand and decadent inside

There is no doubt about Hadley’s Orient Hotel. It has the ambience and romance which the Canberra to Sydney train lacked -prices to match of course, but a lovely experience now and then. Mother’s Day was the perfect occasion.

Potted palms, comfortable leather armchairs and paintings fill the lounges

Hadley’s is a Hobart institution. Established in 1834, it has had chequered fortunes in its 184 year history, but was always the place to be. Many of the infant colony's leading lights such as surgeon, naturalist and parliamentarian William Crowther, or lawyer, and esteemed expert on biology and zoology, Morton Allport made their home here and it was also popular with the odd premier, Prime Minister and politician. Other distinguished guests included stars of stage and screen such as Errol Flynn and Dame Nellie Melba (1909), triumphant Antarctic explorers Mawson (1911) and Amundsen (1912) and a smattering of royal visitors, sports stars, musicians and comedians. 

Special guests include Errol Flynn and Polar explorers Mawson and Amundsen. When Amundsen arrived, looking dishevelled and accompanied by his dogs, he was given a room under the stairs because it was feared that "...he would be the sort who might leave without paying." He was feted three days later after his achievement was acknowledged by the King of Norway                                                                      – excerpt from Hadley's Courier

Always an early adopter of the latest technology, Hadley's was among the first places to have electric light, telephones, an electric lift and hot water. At one stage it even even boasted a skating rink* and has since been host to theatre restaurants, discos and numerous bars. Since 2014 however, it has been restored to its former splendour, befitting its historic position as a favoured hostelry of the well -heeled and famous.

The light - filled atrium has hanging plants on its walls. It's packed today. We have to stand in line until everyone is seated

The architectural scale is grand. While waiting for the doors of the atrium to open, we are invited to wait in one of the luxurious lounges. The grand piano plays. Chandeliers hang from high ceilings. Historic prints and water colours line the walls. Potted palms occupy vacant niches and fresh flowers adorn low tables. At last we are shown to white wicker chairs and seated at tables dressed in white linen with crisp linen napkins. Discreet but attentive waiters fill our glasses with bubbly. Then the teapots arrive – Green Rose for my daughter, French Earl Grey for me, followed by tiered cake stands of wicked delights.  It takes us three rounds of one Hour parking to finish and still there’s a morsel over, plus the packets of fudge all the Mums have been given.

In case you were wondering what High Tea was all about, you can read about it here - just click to enlarge the photo –excerpt from Hadley's Courier

A bit of food porn -Sorry, we'd already eaten the top layer before I thought of taking a photo

I should never drink in the morning. It does me in for the rest of the day, but the pleasant glow remains. Should I ever accidentally get rich and famous, I am looking forward to trying the 71 guest suites, especially the Explorers' room. Wish me luck. Don't worry if you missed out on High Tea for Mother's Day. They serve Traditional Afternoon Tea  from 2- 5 pm. Wednesday to Sunday, but you do need to book. 

Trevor, our lovely waiter hams it up

Many thanks to my darling daughter for a lovely morning.
- and No, this is not a paid ad for Hadley's!

* There's some disagreement here. Hadley's Courier says it was a roller skating rink, but  Postal History Records  show it to have been an icerink, not so far fetched given that the  then owner had icehouses on Mt. Wellington, from which he had ice brought twice a day.